Let's face it, kids are awesome but they can also be quite a handful. Every age has it's challenges. While parents of younger kids may breathe a sigh of relief as the physical challenges fall away (no more booster seats, dressing or bathing kids) and kids become more independent, they should be forewarned that the real challenges are yet to come ... and it's all mental, which can at times quite stressful and completely exhausting. As hormones rage, boys slip into a fog and girls go on a rampage (these can also be mixed and matched), and for parents it can be a roller coaster with no end in sight. Welcome to my world. As a parent of 18, 16 and 14-year-old kids I have found that I've had to adjust my road trip strategy as my kids are plowing through this metamorphosis called adolescence in order to keep what's left of my sanity. Here are my best tips to trying to eliminate the "bumps in the road" while out traveling with your teenagers.
1. Keep 'Em Moving
Teenagers enjoy challenges so I have found that when we travel it's a good idea to seek out physical activities. Whether it's an awesome hike, whitewater rafting, zip-lining, cave exploring, wake boarding or glacier trekking, your teen will most likely be up for it so they can show you (and prove to themselves) how awesome they are.
2. Embrace the electronics
Let's face it, teens are addicted to their phones. Texting and social media are (for better or worse) the way this generation communicates and it's not changing anytime soon. While it's probably impossible and impractical to eliminate electronic use (talk about starting a war...) as a parent it is important to set limits. I don't allow phone use during an activity unless they are sharing something awesome they're seeing or doing. I also don't allow phone use during a meal. Look for the positives -electronics as a great means of tracking down kids down when they wander off to check something out or as a navigational tool.
3. Involve them in the process
Piggybacking off #2, get them involved in the navigation. I'll be honest, I am not as good or nearly as fast as my three kids when it comes to using all the apps and navigational tools which we have come to rely on to get us wherever we need to go. Enlist the kids to put their speedy fingers to good use checking traffic and finding the quickest route. On our last trip my kids navigated us out of Boston Harbor through a throng on people on the 4th of July when we'd gotten lost.
4. Don't hover
It's tough for parents to come to grips with a teen's sudden need for space and a desire for distance. My sweet kids who couldn't get enough "Mommy time" now find me totally embarrassing. I have found on trips giving teens the ability to do their thing, moving through a museum on their own for example builds confidence and trust while giving them the time away from you to grow up and find their own way-all the while knowing you aren't too far away if they need you.
5. Make sure you've got plenty of snacks
While this trick works great for younger kids, you want to take it to the next level with teenagers. There is nothing more intolerable than a hungry and cranky teen. All of our worst blowouts have usually been linked to someone being really hungry. Teenage-hood is a time of physical growth and hormonal changes and all that requires lots of energy. Make sure you travel with plenty of healthy snacks and a few treats to keep everyone happy. It's by no means a guarantee of a smooth ride, but you will definitely see a huge improvement in everyone's demeanor when their tank is full.